Want a fun excuse to get together with friends and enjoy some great brews? No, we don’t mean football season. We’re talking about hosting a beer tasting party. It’s fun, it’s easy, and well, there’s good beer. A beer tasting party is perfect for up to 16 people and can be done pre- or post-meal and it’s perfect for Oktoberfest – so start planning now. How do you go about beer tasting? Oh the fun you can have!
Start off with a plan. With October just around the corner, it means it’s time for Oktoberfests, a perfect time to host a beer tasting party. Decide on a menu and guest list then get ready for some fun.
The equipment – you’ll need glasses. You can go simple and use one glass per guest, rinsing the glass between each beer, or provide a flight of glasses, one for each beer. If you want to have real fun for a small gathering, consider a cool beer flight tasting set. You’ll want to provide each guest with a water glass as well.
Other things you’ll need – a pitcher for water, a bucket or wide-mouth pitcher to dump rinse water into and a pen and paper for each guest. Optional but cool: a slection of beer tasting books for guests to peruse.
Tasting snacks – provide a variety of lightly salty snacks like popcorn, pretzels and chips. You don’t want to overwhelm your tasters with strong snack flavors.
Meal food – whether before or after the tasting, keep your menu simple. For a super easy party, opt for hearty appetizers and a tapas-style meal. Or go classic Oktoberfest food and cook up some bratwurst and sauerkraut.
Serving – forget super-chilled beer here, most Americans drink beer too cold to truly taste its flavors. Aim for a “cellar temperature” of around 45- to 50-degrees Fahrenheit to complement the widest variety of beer styles. Then arrange your beers from lightest in taste to the strongest (don’t be tempted to judge by color alone!) Keep the hoppier and higher alcohol brews for the end.
Taking notes – encourage your guests to talk and take notes. Color and clarity are the first things to notice. How does the beer pour and what does the head look and smell like? What does it sound like? A fizzy, poppy head that dissolves quickly indicates lower malt and more sugar and possibly too much carbonation. Taste the beer and note the sweet malts and bitter hops. How is the aftertaste and the mouth feel? Is it heavy, or creamy, or light, fizzy, flat? You’ll need at least two swallows to get the full effect and swallowing is a must since the hops won’t declare themselves until they’re on the back of your tongue.
The beers – this one’s tricky. If you’ve got a guest list full of folks new to beer, or those who are used to mass-produced American brews, you might stick with lighter styles like lagers, pilsners, golden or blonde ales and maybe a light pale ale or a dry Irish stout. Avoid brews that are high alcohol or strong on the hops.
If your guests are more adventurous, throw caution to the wind and have fun. Go for a theme, find beers that are Oktoberfest brews, go all Belgian and include Belgian chocolates and cheeses, try “big” beers and opt for high-alcohol brews, or wait till the weather turns chilly and go for a holiday beer party with hearty fortified or spiced beers.
How much is enough – for a small tasting with a meal, you can go as few as three or five beers with a 3-ounce pour of each brew. If you’re serving a course of appetizers, or want to go for a longer party, you can go up to 12 different beers.
When it comes to a beer tasting party, there is really only one cardinal rule: have fun!